Featured Stories

‘Road to Carthage,’ Final Joseph Smith Papers Podcast on Martyrdom Released

The 8-episode series explains history, preceding events and aftermath of murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith by mob on June 27, 1844

A statue depicts Joseph and Hyrum Smith riding horses away from Nauvoo, Illinois.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download Photo

This story appears here courtesy of
TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Trent Toone, Church News

The 1844 martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is one of the most tragic and disheartening moments in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yet there is much to be learned from the examples of these leaders.

Consider how they were “men of integrity, loyalty, courage, trust, faith and unwavering testimony,” President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught in 2012.

“My feeling is we have to stand in awe, in reverence and deep appreciation for their courage, their spirituality, their integrity and their love for the Lord Jesus Christ,” President Ballard said. “They were willing to give their lives, if required, to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ. So you are talking about two great men, perhaps as great of sons of God who have ever lived, with the exception of the Savior, of course, Who is the greatest of all. Every Church member should know and think about that.”

The martyrdom, the key events leading up to it and its aftermath, will be explored and discussed in “Road to Carthage: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast,” a new eight-part, documentary style miniseries hosted by Spencer McBride, an associate managing historian with the Joseph Smith Papers project.

This latest Joseph Smith Papers podcast hopes to tell the story of a mob attacking two religious leaders in a western Illinois jail in an uplifting way that will edify and strengthen faith.

“It may not be obvious to some, but at the core of that story is faith in Jesus Christ,” McBride said. “I believe that the way we put together this podcast series, the way we present it, helps listeners understand the story in a way that will build their faith in Jesus Christ.”

A statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is outside of Carthage Jail, where the brothers were killed on June 27, 1844. Photo by Jeffrey Allred, courtesy of Deseret News Archives.Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

‘Road to Carthage’ Podcast

The “Road to Carthage” podcast features eight episodes with a total run time of close to five hours. The average length is 37 minutes.

Previous Joseph Smith Papers podcasts were released all in the same day. This time a new episode will be released each day with all eight available by June 23. Here is the schedule:

“Road to Carthage: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast,” is an eight-part miniseries from the Joseph Smith Papers that focuses on the events leading up to and the aftermath of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download Photo
  • June 13: Episode 1
  • June 14: Episode 2
  • June 15: Episode 3
  • June 16: Episode 4
  • June 19: Episode 5
  • June 20: Episode 6
  • June 22: Episode 7
  • June 23: Episode 8

The series explains the history of the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith by a mob on June 27, 1844, including the series of events and factors — financial, political and legal — that led to the devastating attack and aftermath of the assassinations.

“We’re really good at telling the story of what happened in the jail, and that is important,” McBride said. “But what this podcast will hopefully do is help people understand the complex series of events that led to the martyrdom and what happens afterward, how the Latter-day Saints mourned and memorialized their fallen leaders.”

Podcast Features Two Apostles and Other Guests

The new podcast will feature interviews with two senior Church leaders, including President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Ballard.

In one episode, President Ballard will talk about what the martyrdom means to him in the context of Church history and his family history. The Prophet Joseph is his great-great-great-uncle and Hyrum Smith is his great-great-grandfather.

In another episode, President Oaks reflects at length on his career as a legal scholar prior to his full-time service in the Church. When he was at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, President Oaks found and broke the seal on a packet of legal documents for the trial of the accused assassins while researching for his book, “Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith.” The experience influenced President Oaks’ life as a scholar and it strengthened his faith, McBride said.

“It was a pretty awesome experience to sit with each of those men and talk to them about the importance of this history,” the podcast host said.

Listeners will also hear from Elder Kyle S. McKay, a General Authority Seventy who serves as the Church’s historian and recorder, and Matthew J. Grow, managing director of the Church History Department.

The vast majority of guests come from the Joseph Smith Papers team of historians.

road to carthage
road to carthage
A view of the upper room in the Carthage Jail where the martyrdom took place in 1844. © 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download Photo


Limited Participation in Trial Was a Blessing

Following the martyrdom, the Latter-day Saints wanted justice for the murders of the Smith brothers but realized the courts would not likely deliver an impartial judgment. They began moving west within a year.

One important point that President Oaks makes in the podcast is that limited Latter-day Saint participation in the trial of the accused assassins was a blessing.

“Had the Saints fully participated in the trial and brought upon themselves violence from their enemies by doing so, they likely would not have been able to finish the Nauvoo Temple and administer the ordinances of that sacred building prior to going west,” McBride said.

Previous Joseph Smith Papers Podcasts

“The Road to Carthage” will be the fifth and final podcast produced by the Joseph Smith Papers. The previous podcasts are:

What Listeners Will Find in Each Episode

Here is what listeners can expect to learn about in each episode of the new “Road to Carthage” podcast:

Episode 0: Series Introduction

This introductory episode previews the limited-series podcast on the history of the 1844 assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, Illinois.

Episode 1: Mobs, Elections, and Kidnappings

This episode reveals how the violence Latter-day Saints experienced in Missouri during the 1830s informed the way they designed safeguards for their rights and lives in Illinois, and how the implementation of those safeguards led to the formation of the Anti-Mormon Party. Guests: Matthew Godfrey, Alex Smith, Jeffrey Mahas, Brent Rogers, Elizabeth Kuehn, Christian Heimburger, Adam Petty.

Episode 2: Appeals for Help

This episode reveals the various avenues to protection that church and civic leaders in Nauvoo explored, including Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign and the Saints’ petitions to the United States Congress. The episode also considers Joseph Smith’s religious teachings in 1844. Guests: Christian Heimburger, Jessica Nelson, Matt Grow, Adam Petty, Chase Kirkham.

Episode 3: Leaving Nauvoo

This episode explains the origins of dissent in Nauvoo, rising tensions in the region following the Nauvoo City Council’s suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor, and the events that led Joseph and Hyrum Smith to travel to Carthage, Illinois. Guests: David Grua, Alex Smith, Richard E. Turley Jr., Brett Dowdle, Elizabeth Kuehn, Matthew Godfrey, Brent Rogers, Jenny Reeder.

Episode 4: The Martyrdom

This episode describes the legal proceedings in Carthage, Illinois, on June 25, 1844, and the mob’s attack on Carthage Jail and murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith two days later. Guests: David Grua, Richard E. Turley Jr., Alex Smith, Brett Dowdle, Elizabeth Kuehn.

Episode 5: Mourning Joseph and Hyrum

This episode details the return of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s bodies to Nauvoo, the mourning of the Saints and their efforts to memorialize their fallen leaders, questions of succession in church leadership, and the settling of Joseph Smith’s estate. Guests: Sharalyn Howcroft, Jenny Reeder, Jeffrey Mahas, Matt Grow, Elizabeth Kuehn, Richard E. Turley Jr., Hillary Kirkham.

Episode 6: Knowing Brother Joseph Again

This episode explores the history of Carthage Jail, how the building became a historic site and how its meaning has changed to visitors over time. The episode also describes ongoing efforts to preserve and share Joseph Smith’s history. Guests: Emily Utt, Hillary Kirkham, Matt Grow, Elder Kyle S. McKay.

Episode 7: A Conversation with M. Russell Ballard

In this episode, President M. Russell Ballard discusses the historic and spiritual legacy of Joseph and Hyrum Smith from his perspective as an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a descendant of Hyrum.

Episode 8: A Conversation with Dallin H. Oaks and Richard E. Turley Jr.

In this episode, President Dallin H. Oaks recounts his experiences and discoveries researching the legal history of the events surrounding the martyrdom. President Oaks and Richard E. Turley Jr. also reflect on the historical and spiritual legacy of Joseph Smith. Guests: President Dallin H. Oaks, Richard E. Turley Jr.
Other Related Stories

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.